USM Bargaining Story: Dawn Jackson

Here is what Dawn Jackson, an Animal Operations Manager at the University of Maryland College Park and executive board member of AFSCME Local 1072, has to say about what it's like to bargain with the university system:

"I've worked at UMD for nearly 40 years, and I remember spending my Monday nights going to Annapolis to fight for collective bargaining rights for those of us who work in higher education. With collective bargaining, we're able to work with our bosses to agree to the terms of how we will work. It's not something arbitrary that your department decides, but it's an agreement that's written down.

When you look at our AFSCME bargaining team, we have everyone from facilities to housekeepers to office workers to cooks - we always try to have a very balanced team. But when you sit against the other side, management's side just has lawyers, heads of departments and HR, and also people who don't even work on campus but are outside counsel. Our team does this important work on our own time (usually evenings and weekends), while the management team has the opportunity to work on this during their normal work hours. And often, our team is only granted a few hours to dedicate towards bargaining prior to each negotiation session.

For us, we do this work to benefit all of our coworkers. We want things in place that will ensure that all university system employees can receive benefits instead of just some. Each campus or department should not get to make up its own set of rules; there should be consistency in the policies and rules, and we should have a voice in how they are made.

At UMD, many of my fellow employees have concerns about pay equity and that newer people are coming in making more than those who have worked there for many years. There's also concerns around retention, and I think proposals to help keep qualified people are important. I also really want to see some form of leave sharing or a leave bank. I have so much leave, and the university tries to take it back from me, but I wish I could give it to another coworker if they need it.

I have enjoyed working at the university, but I know that there are departments where people are being treated like crap. I believe in holding the university system accountable with regards to how they treat their employees on a daily basis. Our campuses are entrusted with some of the greatest treasures - the lives and education experiences of people's children, the future! The campuses bring in so much money, but it doesn't get shared with the employees who are the ones doing the work. We are indeed the hidden figures on our campuses, ensuring that they run smoothly and efficiently. Truly, the institutions work because we are here working, and we're here 24/7, 365 days of the year.

It's important for all of us to stick together so that we can show power and win a strong contract. It's important for us to have a voice in the workplace, and this is how we ensure that we are treated with the respect and dignity that we deserve."